I’m meeting someone and arrive early in a part of the city that’s familiar in the general sense but less so close up. I park and watch pedestrians, wondering about their stories, until it’s precisely ten minutes before our appointed meeting. A short five minute walk, and I’m there.
I wait. And wait. And a general sense that I’ve messed something up starts to burn.
Once, when I was a little girl, I was supposed to meet my mom on the sidewalk outside of the Zellers store. I waited then too, for what felt like hours, while Mom stood on the sidewalk outside of the Simpsons Sears store kitty corner across the street.
She must have noticed me, her lost-looking little girl trying to retain her composure in the midst of quiet panic, and crossed the street. I remember her scolding, certain that it was she who got the name of the store wrong, though I dared not say so out loud.
Everything turned out in the end but I remember with every cell in my body the sense that I had been abandoned, and how it felt to wait for someone I was afraid wasn’t going to come.
Now, I check the time on my phone and see it’s ten minutes past the hour. My senses are heightened. Something’s wrong.
I check my email (for the umpteenth time) and confirm the address. I check lettering on the building in front of which I’m standing. It’s roughly the same, though the letter A at the end throws me off. I look up and around and ask Google and feel a lump of something start to grow in my stomach.
Finally I walk down the street in the opposite direction from which I came and find the spot. There’s no mistaking it now that I’m here, and the woman I’m meeting is sitting on the stairs, calm as anything. Her face breaks out into a smile when she sees me.
I feel stupid, and try to explain, but she brushes my explanation aside. Pays it no matter, really. It’s not a passive aggressive brushing of something aside, it’s a sincere let’s-move-forward everything-is-okay kind of thing that implies the more important thing is that we’re together now.
We carry on. The rest of the day and that night carries on. The next day does too. And I can’t get the image of that woman sitting calmly on the stairs waiting for me out of my mind. That, and the welcoming smile she broke into when she saw me. The Divine is using that woman, that experience, and that moment to remind me of some truth I have a tendency to forget.
The memory will remain strong, like the one from ages ago in which I did my best to remain calm in the midst of certain maternal abandonment, because it counteracts it. It speaks the truth of holy acceptance that’s more powerful than the lie of abandonment.
It’s moments like this and whispers of love that I miss when I’m not paying attention, when I allow the cacophony of the world and the accusing voices in my mind to be louder than the still, small voice that speaks life and love. Mostly love. Always love.
As I sit here now I can almost weep from the sense of feeling accepted—no, more: treasured—when I picture that woman sitting on the stairs waiting for me. That, right there, is what grace looks like. It’s a moment so holy that I could have dropped to my knees right there on that sidewalk. It’s not acceptance from the woman (though her grace was a gift) but welcome into the love from which I came that is my undoing. I keep forgetting. That woman looked a little (maybe a lot) like God’s only begotten sitting there on those cold hard steps. There are always these reminders. And, man, if that’s not love I don’t know what is.
We try to wrap it up in fancy words that have lost much of their intended meaning and, I’m afraid, lose some folks along the way. When it comes right down it it’s just ordinary people doing ordinary things, making space for Divine whispers to flow through them and to them and truth wrapped up in holy encounters that show us how loved we really are.
And so on. And so on. World without end.